Six reasons why marriage counseling fails (or at least appears to fail- part two)

Six reasons why marriage counseling fails

Six reasons why marriage counseling fails

Some couples use counseling as their last stop before deciding to separate or seek a divorce attorney. And counseling is a good stop to make because it can make a huge difference in helping couples to repair their relationships even when things seem to be broken.

That said, many couples enter counseling with great hope that counseling will magically “fix” their relationship. As I mentioned in the previous post in this series that I myself used to have this misconception. Some couples feel if they don’t get quick or lasting results, that marriage counseling failed.

With regard to this, in the first post, three possibilities were discussed. The first one was possibility was if your couples counselor appears to pick sides. The second possibility is that you began marriage counseling too late. The third was the assumption that counseling would provide a quick and permanent fix for your relationship problems.

In this post, we will explore three more possibilities of why marriage counseling fails.

#4: You didn’t take the skills you learned and practice them outside of counseling. 

We each have unique and intricate ways in which we interact that took years to develop over the course of our life. Sometimes those ways of interacting become fixed and rigid and this creates a problem in our intimate relationships.

Long term transformation rarely happens in session. In session, we are simply given tools…. to practice outside of session.

We have to practice new ways of being with one another out in the real world where it matters. We will likely stumble. It may feel awkward or artificial. But we need to practice anyway. When we are tired. When we are mad. When we don’t feel like it. It is the effort outside of session that speaks volumes to us and to our partners.

#5: The idea that if your partner changes, the relationship will be good again.

We can influence our partners. However, we cannot control them. If we are waiting for him or her to act as we think they should, we are likely going to experience deep disappointment and compounding resentment.

In my work with couples, often one partner believes the success of the relationship to be contingent upon the other partner changing. Maybe this belief is based upon years of accumulating bitterness or the other partner acting out, which will be discussed below. However, this is not a beneficial mentality.

In couples counseling, both partners have to be willing to look at how their behavior causes potential problems in the relationship.

#6: One or both partners continually act out in the relationship.

Hopefully by now it has become abundantly clear that it is what we choose to do in real life and in real time outside of the therapy office that matters most. Frequently forgiveness is sought in counseling by one of the partners for past wrongs committed. And when forgiveness has been given, that is the time that work begins.

Some people may have the misconception that apologizing for wrongdoing in session is enough. It is true that saying sorry for hurting the other partner is a good start. However, ultimately repair will be determined by rebuilding security and trust and demonstrating consistent behavior that tends to the greater good of the relationship.

Change can be difficult. With time, it is very easy to revert back to old behaviors that may have gotten us in trouble in the first place. However, if your relationship has been plagued by acting out, no amount of counseling will likely fix the situation if the acting out continues.

If you believe that any of these six reasons might be why you might think marriage counseling failed for you, I would love to speak with you. Perhaps it is time to give it another try. If you are still in your relationship, there is always hope. You and your significant other deserve to feel empowered in your partnership again, and I would like to help with that.

Please feel free to call or text me at 303-475-2757, email me at or click on the schedule option at the top of this page to schedule a free 20 minute no charge phone consultation to see if counseling might be beneficial to your relationship.

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